Suspect in Custody in 1996 Killing of 17-Year-Old Girl in Malibu

Genetic test

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A man who allegedly killed a 17-year-old Boyle Heights girl in 1996 was in custody today after DNA evidence connected him to the crime, authorities said.

Jose Luis Garcia, 42, was arrested in September in Dallas, Texas, in the death of Gladys Arellano, whose partially clothed body was discovered at the bottom of a ravine in the Topanga Canyon area of Malibu on Jan. 30, 1996, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Garcia, who had recently relocated from Fontana to Texas, was being held on $1 million bail, the sheriff's department reported.

The case was investigated by members of the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau's Unsolved Case Unit, Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters Wednesday in the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles. That unit comprises a dozen retired homicide investigators who return to work on a part-time basis, Villanueva said.

“Every unsolved homicide case remains active and available to investigate until it is solved,'' Villanueva said. “These detectives continuously review cold cases, and take all the pieces of workable information and leads which have not been exhausted, and they'll take them as far as they will go.

“Newly discovered witnesses, advances in science and technology, and anonymous tips all contribute to the success of these investigators in solving these cold cases,'' Villanueva said. “I am pleased to announce an arrest was made, and charges were filed in this case.''

According to the sheriff's department, an autopsy determined that the girl had been sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled.

“Serology evidence was collected from her body, and a DNA profile was uploaded into state and federal DNA databases as that of an unknown offender,'' a sheriff's statement said. “Although an extensive investigation was conducted, no match was identified through the DNA databases and the case remained unsolved.''

A development that led to the solving of the case came on Nov. 10, 2019, when Garcia was arrested by Los Angeles police officers on suspicion of domestic assault, and a DNA sample was collected and loaded into the California DNA database, sheriff's Lt. Hugo Reynaga said Wednesday.

A detective assigned to the Unsolved Case Unit learned of a match of that sample to evidence from the 1996 slaying, Reynaga said.

The detective and a partner obtained a warrant to obtain an oral swab from Garcia to confirm the DNA match. The detectives contacted him at his then-residence in Fontana, and obtained the DNA swab, Reynaga said.

Serologists from the sheriff's crime lab confirmed the DNA match, and the detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Garcia, Reynaga said.

On Sept. 29, Garcia was arrested in Dallas by a U.S. Marshals Service task force. He was extradited to California a week ago, and was arraigned in Van Nuys on Monday on a charge of murder, the sheriff's department reported.

Also at Wednesday's news conference were members of the slain girl's family, including Samantha Moreno, the girl's niece and goddaughter

“Thank you for not giving up on our Gladys, who was a loving daughter, sister, aunt and godmother ...,'' Moreno said. “Gladys was only 17 when she was murdered. She had a beautiful soul. She was beautiful, intelligent, gorgeous, and had a radiant smile. She had such big dreams for her life.

“... We are pleased to know that Jose Luis Garcia has been taken off the streets after 24 and a half years,'' Moreno said. “We want nothing more than for him to pay for his brutal crime.''

Photo: Getty Images

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